A new study shows that when you injure your knee, it changes your brain – which could put you at risk for further injuries. Using MRI, researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center examined several pairs of volunteers, half who have suffered arterial cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries and half who haven’t.
“We were able to see in real time that the brain fundamentally changed in how it processes information from an injured knee,” Dustin Grooms, who worked on the study at Ohio State, but is currently employed at Ohio University, said in prepared remarks. “We think those changes play a big role in why people who recover from ACL injuries don’t trust their knees entirely and tend to move them differently.”
The brain scans showed that people who had suffered ACL injuries relied on visual cues when moving their knee and didn’t move it as naturally or instinctively as those who had not been injured.
“It’s like walking in the dark, you don’t walk as fast, you don’t move as confidently,” said Jimmy Onate, of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “These individuals may, in a smaller sense, be doing the same thing, not moving as confidently and constantly using visual cues when they really don’t need to.”
To help patients overcome dependence on visual cues, therapists are using special strobe glasses in rehab. “The idea is to use these glasses to visually distract these patients, so their brains will rewire back to their original state ,” said Grooms. “That will allow them to once again move their knee based on natural instinct instead of relying on visual cues.”